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China says US provoking arms race in moves into South China Sea

BEIJING — The US poses the largest security challenge in the South China Sea as its military deployment there is turning it into "the whirlpool of an arms race", Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said in remarks published on June 9.

Recent maritime run-ins between China and the Philippines, a US treaty ally, have made the highly strategic South China Sea a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.

"At present, the biggest security challenge in the South China Sea comes from outside the region," Sun said in comments published by his ministry, after attending a high-level meeting on East Asian co-operation in Laos.

Sun said US-led forces were "promoting military deployment and actions in the South China Sea, inciting and intensifying maritime disputes and contradictions, and damaging the legitimate rights and interests of coastal countries".

A move by the United States to deploy medium-range missile systems in the area "is dragging the region into the whirlpool of an arms race, placing the entire Asia-Pacific region under the shadow of geopolitical conflicts", Sun said.

China is committed to properly managing disputes with the parties in the South China Sea through dialogue, he added.

In April, the Philippines said during a meeting with US allies that it was determined to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, accusing China of escalating "its harassment" of the Philippines.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in annual ship commerce, and has deployed hundreds of coast guard vessels as far as 1,000km off its mainland to police what it says is its jurisdiction.

The Philippines and China have sparred repeatedly this past year